Effective Engineering e-Newsletter – 4/7/2005
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“Us” vs. “Them”, Nobody Wins!
Tom Dennis – President, Effective Engineering [email@example.com]
How many times have you found yourself in a situation where it
comes down to “Us” vs. “Them”, where “Us” are, naturally, the
“good guys”, and “Them” are the “bad guys”?
Where it’s unquestionably clear that unless “Us” wins the current
battle, “Them” will win and that will mean the end of life as we know it?
In situations like this, “Us” and “Them” can be any two sets of people
or groups. “Us” vs. “Them” can be “The Troops” vs. Senior
Management, or Sales vs. Finance, or Engineering vs. Product Management, or
Software Development vs. Software QA, or any other pairing of two parties.
“Us” vs. “Them” seems to be human nature, but the only thing
you can really be sure of is that when resolution of any problem comes down to
“Us” vs. “Them”, the company as a whole will be the loser.
How, then, can you overcome the tendency of different groups to exhibit
“Us” vs. “Them” behavior?
First, think about the consequences of “Us” vs. “Them”
behavior, where one party clearly “wins” and the other party clearly
“loses”. The “winner”
party may gloat and belittle the “loser” party and behave obnoxiously.
The “loser” party may grudgingly accept the “winner’s”
victory, but will often either work to undermine the “winner’s” solution
so that they can say, “I told you so”, or will let this “win” go, but
stiffen their opposition further and work harder to make sure they don’t
“lose” again, even if it’s to the detriment of the company as a whole.
When this occurs, the company loses because instead of both teams being
able to work together and build a strong team, the exact opposite has occurred
and the company is far worse off for it.
Resentment, or even hatred will build, which will sow the seeds of
destruction for the company.
The best approach is to avoid “Us” vs. “Them” behavior in the first
place. A good way to approach
this is to put yourself in the other party’s shoes.
You can’t know another person’s problems until you’ve walked a
mile in their shoes. Learn the other party’s perspective, their take on things,
what is critical to them and what isn’t.
What would you do in their situation?
How would you view the current situation and what would be your
proposed solution to the problem?
Build bridges to the other party. Participate
in their group discussions with an ear toward listening more and talking less.
Invite them to participate in your group discussions and welcome their
ideas and proposed solutions. The
more you can make the problem a joint one, the less there will be a tendency
to make the problem “Us” vs. “Them”.
Work cooperatively toward a common goal and for the common good.
Do nothing to undermine the other party.
Rather, come up with ideas that can address both your and their issues
with a common solution. Do
everything in you power to develop a “win/win” outcome rather than a
In situations where there is a clear “winner” and “loser”, do whatever
you can to eliminate the perception of “winner” and “loser”.
The outcome was simply one that is best for the company as a whole, and
the contributions of both parties in coming to this decision were equally
valuable and critical in making that decision.
If your approach was the one closest to that decision, don’t gloat or put
anyone down. Rather, be gracious
and give credit to the great cooperation and ideas of everyone who was
involved. If your approach was
the one furthest away from that decision, be accepting and make it clear that
you fully understand the rationale behind the decision and that you are fully
committed to make that decision work for the betterment of the company as a
whole. Once the decision is made,
don’t dwell on the process of reaching the decision, or revisit the outcome,
or try to undermine it (see eN-030508
– Are You Part of the Solution, or Part of the Problem?).
Move on, together, toward making that decision work for everyone.
If you’re battling with other parties within the company, then you’re not
looking at who the real “enemy” is – your competition!
The road to a company’s success is difficult enough when everyone is
pulling together toward the same goal. There
are trials and tribulations that make achieving success difficult and
demanding. This is the case when
everyone in the company is working together!
If your competitors learn that there is turmoil among the ranks (and
they will learn), they will be absolutely delighted that your company’s
energies are being diverted into battling each other inside your company
rather than battling them. It
gives them the opportunity to concentrate on beating you, knowing that
you’re not concentrating, or even paying attention to them.
What a great gift to your competitors.
No company can afford this.
Remember, the primary objective of any company is for the company to make
money. (see eN-030522
– Keep Your Eyes on THE GOAL!).
This takes tremendous efforts. When
“Us” vs. “Them” behavior is taking place, nobody wins, and the
company’s success is greatly jeopardized.
Don’t let this happen!
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